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Home Buying

8 Minute Read

How Long Does It Take to Build a House?

8 Minute Read

Time it takes to build a house.

If you’re thinking of building a new house, you’re not alone—nearly half a million new single-family houses were built in the first half of 2020 all across the U.S.1 Sure, you really like the idea of moving into a brand-spankin’-new house with all the latest features and technology. But you’re wondering, How long does it take to build a house?

Maybe you’ve heard horror stories of the original completion date being thrown off by several months or even a year—or maybe the thought of picking out your own custom fixtures and finishes feels overwhelming (but a little exciting). Well, we’ve outlined the average time it takes to build a house, along with some time-saving tips to help keep things on track.

That way, you can make the best decision on whether you’re ready to commit to the time it takes to build a beautiful new house that’s all your own.

Get your calendar ready!

Average Time It Takes to Build a House

On average, it takes seven months to build a house from start to finish, according to a 2019 U.S. Census Bureau report.2 But you may also need to include time for an architect to draw up plans (1–4 months).3 Then tack on another month to get your project authorized before shovels can hit the dirt.4 Add those all up and you’re looking at a grand total of a year-long commitment.

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Of course, depending on where you live and the method you use to build your house, you might zip through some of those home-building steps. So let’s break down how long it takes to build a house by home type and region.

On average, it takes seven months to build a house from start to finish, according to a 2019 U.S. Census Bureau report.

Build Time by Home Type

Placing the timelines for architectural plans and red tape aside, check out which method of building a house takes the least amount of time:

Home Type

Average Build Time (2019)

Owner-built

12 months

Contractor-built

9 months

Built-for-sale

6 months5

 

Why Custom Builds Are Slower

Assuming you already purchased the plot of land you want to build on, custom builds are when you hire (or act as) a general contractor to build a house the way you want it. Custom builds like owner-built and contractor-built projects are similar in that you (the landowner) are the one running the show.

Since general contractors build homes for a living, it makes sense that contractor-built projects don’t take as long as owner-built ones where you as the landowner might have little or no experience managing the building of a house. After all, playing with Lincoln Logs as a kid isn’t quite the same as building yourself a log cabin.

Why Non-Custom Builds Are Faster

Non-custom construction like built-for-sale homes tend to be the fastest to build. A built-for-sale home (similar to a tract, speculative or production-built home) is one that’s built with the intent to sell, but no buyer is lined up at the start of the project.

The reason built-for-sale projects have the quickest turnaround time is probably because the builder has already built a bazillion homes like yours using a cookie-cutter design plan—so they’ve had time to work out the kinks. Plus, most of the project direction typically comes from just the builder—instead of both the builder and a potentially indecisive buyer (insert sweat emoji).

If you go the built-for-sale route, all you have to do is work with a real estate agent to find a nice subdivision or other location where new homes are being built and stake your claim as the buyer. You might not get full say in what goes where beyond picking out siding, countertops or paint colors, but at least you can enjoy a faster timeline and a brand-new house.

Build Time by Region

For an even deeper dive, let’s check out the time it takes to build a house based on region:

Region

Average Build Time (2019)

Northeast

11 months

West and Midwest

8 months

South

6 months6

 

Obviously, the cold and snow might cause some delays if you’re building a house up north, where it takes nearly a year to construct a home. But hey, you’ll have plenty of time to pick out the perfect kitchen faucet! On the flip side, if you’re building a house in the South, you’ll probably enjoy the fastest timeline—thank you, sunshine and blue skies!

Steps of the Home-Building Process

If you’re curious about why it takes so long to build a house, let’s look at a snapshot of what goes into getting one built. Here are the typical stages that follow architectural plans and authorization:

  • Site work (water and sewer inspections)

  • Laying the foundation (excavation and concrete)

  • Framing (roof and “bones” of the house)

  • Exterior finishes (siding, windows, doorways and garage)

  • Major systems installation (HVAC, plumbing and electricity)

  • Interior finishes (drywall, flooring, cabinets, countertops and painting)

Of course, the timing for each stage varies across the board. But in general, the early stages typically go faster than the later stages of installing major systems and doing exterior and interior finishes. These later stages require a ton of different materials and your general contractor may need to call on other types of professionals to get the job done.

Tips to Avoid Construction Delays

Sometimes construction delays will be out of your control—there’s not much you can do about the ground being frozen, wet or muddy. Plus, certain weather conditions could be life-threatening to your construction crew.

Here are the main things you can control to make sure your new home is completed on time:

1. Develop a Realistic Set of Plans

Have your architect and builder work together to develop the set of plans and blueprint for your home construction. That way, your builder can hold your architect accountable to drawing something that’s realistic to build and won’t lead to massive changes and delays down the road.

Of course, this only works if you hire an excellent home builder who actually knows what they’re doing. So be sure to interview several home contractors before hiring one—as if you were a dad interrogating the pimple-faced teenager who asked his daughter to prom.

2. Stick to Your Budget

Sticking to your home budget helps keep your project on track. But wait, what if you discover a prettier carpet that’d cost $20,000 to install when you only budgeted for $8,000? Don’t do it! Stick to the budget. Why? Well, to make up the difference, you might be forced to change the budget in another area or else be tempted to rack up debt—and debt is dumb! Going over budget in several small areas can add up fast.

Plus, change orders (adjustments to the original building plan) always cause construction delays because you have to deal with the headache of cancelling one order and replacing it for a new one. And ordering things like construction-grade carpeting, cabinetry, windows and doors can take weeks to deliver—not to mention installation time!

If you don’t have your heart set on too many particular features, try selecting as much of a standard floor plan as possible. That way, your builder and subcontractors won’t have to wrestle with learning gaps that cause delays when it comes to unfamiliar materials and installation methods.

3. Stay on Top of the Schedule

Keeping a home-building project on time is all about project management. So be a project manager! Meet with your general contractor on the regular to review the blueprint, budget and upcoming tasks. Confirm plans months ahead of time so that you know exactly when subcontractors, electricians and plumbers are supposed to be on site.

If plumbing can’t be installed on the day it was scheduled for, it could throw off something else another day—so discussing the schedule as often as possible will give you a chance to ask how your builder will make up the time or pivot by finding a different plumber.

Just be careful not to break the chain of command here. If you see a scheduling problem with the building team, bring it to your general contractor and let it funnel down from there. A team moves much faster when they have one leader to follow.

Ready to Start Building?

Whether you’re ready to find a prime plot of land or want first dibs at a new subdivision, work with an expert real estate agent. For a quick and easy way to find the best agents near you, try our Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program. We only recommend agents who are the top closers in their markets and place serving you as their number one mission. Seriously, the caliber of excellence in these agents will blow your mind.

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Buy a House With an Agent Who Serves, Not Sells.

You need an agent who cares more about you than their commission check.
Find a Buyer's Agent

Buy a House With an Agent Who Serves, Not Sells.

You need an agent who cares more about you than their commission check.
Find a Buyer's Agent